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Uber Fires Back at Google-Brought Lawsuit

Kirsten Korosec
Uber's Head of Self-Driving Car Research Steps Aside as Waymo Lawsuit Looms

Uber responded Friday to a lawsuit filed by Waymo, calling it meritless and “demonstrably false” in an effort to prevent a judge from stopping the development of its self-driving car technology.

The ride-hailing services company also says it doesn’t have files containing trade secrets that Waymo has alleged one of its former employees stole before leaving to start his own business, which was later acquired by Uber.

In February, Waymo filed a lawsuit against self-driving truck startup Otto and its parent company Uber for patent infringement and stealing trade secrets. The lawsuit alleges that Otto and Uber are using key parts of Waymo’s self-driving technology, specifically related to its light detection and ranging radar. This technology, known in the industry as LiDAR, measures distance using laser light to generate a highly accurate 3D map of the world around the car.

Otto, which was founded by former Google car and map veterans Anthony Levandowski and Lior Ron, was acquired by Uber in August 2016 for $680 million. The lawsuit accuses Levandowski of downloading more than 14,000 confidential and proprietary files shortly before his resignation. The 14,000 files included a wide range of highly confidential files, including Waymo’s LiDAR circuit board designs, the lawsuit claims.

Waymo was copied on an email from one of its LiDAR component vendors, according to Waymo’s account in its lawsuit against Uber. The email included attached machine drawings of an Uber LiDAR circuit board. Waymo says in the lawsuit that the circuit board bears a striking resemblance to its own highly confidential and proprietary design and reflects Waymo trade secrets.

In the weeks since the initial filing, Waymo has asked for a preliminary injunction against Uber that would prevent the ride-hailing company from using what it says are stolen trade secrets. Waymo also amended its original lawsuit, adding a new patent infringement claim.

Uber’s Opposition Filing

Now Uber is trying to fight back to prevent a judge from derailing its self-driving car program. Uber argues there is no evidence of any stolen files. The company also says its LiDAR design is different from Waymo’s product.

“Waymo’s injunction motion is a misfire: there is no evidence that any of the 14,000 files in question ever touched Uber’s servers and Waymo’s assertion that our multi-lens LiDAR is the same as their single-lens LiDAR is clearly false,” Angela Padilla, associate general counsel said in a statement. “If Waymo genuinely thought that Uber was using its secrets, it would not have waited more than five months to seek an injunction. Waymo doesn’t meet the high bar for an injunction, which would stifle independent innovation and competition.”

Within the filing, Uber makes these key arguments:

  • Waymo has a single-lens design and Uber’s LiDAR design is “fundamentally different.”
  • Uber’s LiDAR is a four-lens design, with two lenses for transmitting laser light and two for receiving it. “This fact alone demonstrates the misguided nature of Waymo’s request for “extraordinary and drastic relief,” the filing says.
  • Uber’s design uses two optical cavities, compared to just one cavity in Waymo’s unit.
  • Uber began developing its LiDAR design before it hired Levandowski.
  • Waymo took one Uber schematic (inadvertently sent to a Waymo employee) and made several assumptions based on that one document to conclude that Uber’s LiDAR used a single-lens design, the filing states.

Waymo’s Reaction

Waymo remains unmoved. In a comment reacting to the opposition filing, the company is steadfast in its efforts to stop Uber.

“Uber’s assertion that they’ve never touched the 14,000 stolen files is disingenuous at best, given their refusal to look in the most obvious place: the computers and devices owned by the head of their self-driving program,” a Waymo spokesman said. “We’re asking the court to step in based on clear evidence that Uber is using, or plans to use, our trade secrets to develop their LiDAR technology, as seen in both circuit board blueprints and filings in the State of Nevada.”

This article was originally published on FORTUNE.com